My last two reviews focused on similar ideas like sweeping cityscapes and people out in the streets protesting or something for one reason or another. After doing some research, I’ve discovered something a little different that twists all of those elements in a somewhat unique way. What is this film called? Well, it’s a little unknown CG film called Vexille that has a pretty solid dub. At least, that’s how I watched it on the funimation website. You can watch it for free on Funimation’s services if it sounds interesting. After reading about Vexille’s general plot and ideas, it sounded like something that clicked with all my levels of interest so I’m surprised that I haven’t heard about it until now. All of the plot elements like they came general cyberpunk and Masamune Shirow properties, but that doesn’t mean anything honestly. (I had to dig deep for this one because I didn’t want to talk about a Oshi movies yet.) Since when did Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed hold all the cards on what is cyberpunk? Never I say. The biggest question is if it’s good or not and that’s why you are reading this, right?
Vexille starts with a very interesting concept and unique concept. A look at Japanese isolationism in the future, but from an American perspective. I looked at the production staff to make sure and yeah, this was definitely an almost completely Japanese production. At least that’s what I found from list of the production staff online. In the not so distant future of the 2060’s, robotics technology was considered highly advanced and the world’s opinion started turning away from anymore development. By the year 2067, the UN declared a unilateral ban on all robotics research. Japan, who was home to Daiwa Robotics Industries, tried to push against the ruling but they were completely over ruled by the rest of the world. What resulted was a new round of Japanese isolationism on a high tech level. All foreigners were immediately deported and an Energy Shield, called R.A.C.E. made from tons of substations were planted all around Japan that prevented any ships from entering their waters unless cleared and disabled Satellite capability from even seeing what Japan was up to. Only some robotics trading was allowed and that’s it. So yeah, not so subtle themes there.
The plot of Vexille starts ten years after Japan’s isolation in 2077. Some high tech robotics trading from under the UN degree is the only interaction the rest of the world has with Japan now. Well, except for a meeting that Japan orchestrated in Colorado with members of important nations from across the world on Christmas Day. Of course, that is a ruse. The informant from Japan named Saito immediately kills all of them off reaons that only become clear later on. Enter the American unit called SWORD; a group of elite trained soldiers who wear Exo-Skeletons or Iron Man like suits for combat situations. Their mission? Capture Saito. The mission doesn’t end in a complete failure because Vexille, a SWORD member, was able to obtain Saito’s leg but things only get stranger from there. For starters, the politicians that were killed off found themselves in custody. That’s kind of suspicious, isn’t it?
After Vexille’s action James Bond or Spy Film like opening, investigation of what SWORD obtained is underway and the results are incredibly confusing. For one thing, Saito’s leg turned out to be completely made from micro machines and nano metal. A kid that showed up in a SWORD’S protected city who stole a motorcycle was also a cyborg created from the same material. Some very heavy UN breaking things are going on in Japan right now. This leads to a SWORDS stealth mission to infiltrate Japan. Vexille and other SWORDS members attempt to go through Japan’s R.A.C.E. Wall and make landing on Japanese soil to see what is going on. Of course, nothing goes as plan. Vexille, our protagonist, is the only SWORDS member to make it and the rest of the mission just falls apart. Except for the fact that SWORD was able to hack into Japan’s systems to know what was going on. Japan is screwed. There is only a small slum that used to be Tokyo that had a population of people slowly turning into mindless cyborgs and Daiwa Industries itself. That’s it. Yet, Daiwa hasn’t had enough yet and aims to take over and/or destroy the world. I bet you can guess what the plot is about now. Sorry it took me three paragraphs to get there.
Vexille is a thematically strong movie, but doesn’t have much for characters honestly. We have Vexille, who is our SWORD point of view character and Maria, the doctor that tried to stop Japan’s cyberization but failed and now is out to stop Daiwa industries at all costs. The two are connected together by a guy they know, Leon from Sword, who was kicked out of Japan ten years ago. There was a kid named Takashi who lived in that broken Tokyo with Maria who was just a kid until he bit it. That’s about it for completely characterization besides the loss of innocence that happens as the Japanese “condition” in Tokyo gets worse and worse. There is a little more focus on groups of people instead like government organizations and populations of people, though not enough time can be used to establish all of that as much as it could. It’s a very well paced film, but a busy one none the less.
What the film is about is humanity as a whole and whether or not people whose bodies are slowly being replaced in a way can still be human. This is territory that all cyberpunk media anime go for like Ghost in the Shell, but I think that Vexille approaches it slightly different then others. Especially since the fact the remaining Japanese are slowly turning into brainless cyborgs and hold onto their humanity as long as they can. There are a couple shots that explore and explain this concept a little bit more. For instance, the city that the SWORDS live in never feels alive. Yes, it’s a full city with millions of people in it and we see shot after shot of it in different locations, but that’s all we see. Still city shots and nothing else. The slums in Tokyo have so much life and energy in them that the different is just so stellar and shocking. Even in the hardest times, people are still people. It’s these people’s humanity that saves the world from becoming a cyberized waste land.
The power of ego is another theme to be explored here. Diawa didn’t just turn Japan into horrible things over a small amount of time. Oh no, it was for robotics research to see how technology could be taken with absolute control from the Japanese government. That’s as far as I am going to go into how it happened, because the fact that it happened at all is the put. That is also to save some important information for people interested in the film. Vexille shows us what unrestrained control can do and what it can mean for innocent people who just get caught and exploited. There is a limit to where all of this should go and it’s up to the people to say it and find it. It wasn’t Vexille or any other american to say that, it was the exploited people themselves that don’t want the experiments to go any farther anymore. No matter what, the oppressor always gets it.
Lastly, Vexille is a CG film but it is a beyond gorgeous one. Especially for something that came out in 2007. I guess that $10,000,000 budget really helped in this department, huh? I mean seriously, there is no felt cheapness through out the film besides maybe the lowered amount of areas that it takes place in and smaller amount of character designs? All the character designs are highly varied and full of personality, the animation and movement of characters moving and fighting are pretty solid, and the mechanical design and settings are incredible. The exo suits movement and look is great, all the robots are pretty unique, and I love the dune like techno worms that appear in Japan’s wasteland too and how they move. It’s just so delicious for the eyes. I just wish that the gun fights were more interesting then people behind walls shooting at each other. That’s it, that’s all I got here.
So, it kind of surprised me how much I found myself loving this film. I think the only issue it has is the characterization because it nails down world building and plot ramifications to a T. Then again, I suppose that it like other films sacrificed these elements for other reasons and that’s ok in my eyes. Having a relatable cast would have just made it a more necessary watch in my eyes. Instead, this is just a good watch that you should watch if you are bored or need something cyber punk to keep you going if you need more science fiction anime like me. The best way that I can phrase everything in my mind for this film is it’s like if Appleseed (the cgi film) had a good script and it’s visuals still stood up to scrutiny in a lot of respects. The fact that Appleseed is bad instead of bland makes that film a little more memorable unfortunately. That one sounds hard to explain, but that means Appleseed leaves you with more of a taste in your mouth then Vexille. That’s what happens when something is compared to my guilty pleasure I suppose.
That’s it for films leading up to Halloween with very 2019 moods attached to them. Well, at least in regards to films that I’ve been watching and going over here. Tomorrow, we have the Die Hard of anime Halloween science fiction classics appearing on screen here. If you can guess what that film is, I’ll let you know. I honestly can’t give you any sort of prize fast enough considering that I will have to mail something. Anyway, hope you all have fun tomorrow with that “surprise”.
I’ve heard of that movie, but I never had the chance to see it. Looks like it could be better than I thought. Good call on anime fans making a monopoly of GITS or Appleseed when it comes to cyberpunk anime.
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For a person like me who walked into this without knowing anything besides it’s premise, I was completely shocked by how into it’s concept it is.
Right? Those are famous franchises that I like for one reason or another but there are other cyberpunk things out there. Bubblegum Crisis or No Guns Life for example.
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That’s great. I like it when I go into a show or movie blind and get pleasantly surprised, too.
Sure thing. I like GITS, but it shouldn’t be the only thing people talk about. Good call with Bubblegum Crisis. I haven’t seen No Guns Life, so I don’t have anything to say about it. You can also add Texhnolyze and possibly Key the Metal Idol.